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Gum Arabic: Uses and Economic Importance To The Economy

Gum Arabic is a well-known commodity that is grown commercially throughout the Sahel from Senegal and Sudan to Somali land, and all the way to Pakistan and India. According to Sudanese sources, gum arabic was an article of commerce as early as 12” Century BC. It was collected in Nubia and exported north to Egypt for use in the preparation of inks, watercolors, and dyes.

The name ‘Gum Arabic’ is owed to Europe’s early contacts with the Middle East.

Nearly eighty percent of the Gum Arabic used and exported worldwide is gotten from South Sudan. It is their main source of income as oil is the most source of income to many African countries that are well known for its production.

Rumors have it that Osama Bin Laden owns a significant portion of the Gum Arabic produced in Sudan. It is however believed that he divested himself of these investments when he was expelled from Sudan in 1996.

Gum Arabic has also been politically linked by the government of Sudan to the genocide committed in the Dafur region of Sudan .In reaction to these rumors, the United States once threatened to impose sanctions on the Sudanese government.

In a defiant response, however, the government of Sudan threatened to stop the export of gum arabic to the Western World. Consequently. The sanctions were dropped.

Uses Of Gum Arabic

Gum Arabic is a natural gum also called gum acacia. It is a substance that is taken from two sub-Saharan species of the acacia tree.

The commodity has very wide industrial applications. It is used as a water soluble binder in firework composition. Pharmaceuticals and cosmetics also use the gum as a binder in pyrotechnic compositions. For artists, it is a traditional binder used in water colour paint and in photography for gum printing.

It is also used primarily in the food industry as stabilizer. It is an important ingredient in soft drink syrups, hard gummy candies like gum drops, most notably chewing gums.

It is also an important ingredient in the manufacture of shoe polish.

It is used also as lick-able adhesives on postage stamps and cigarette papers.

People who are into printing tend to hold up an employed labour of the product as it stops the quick oxidation of aluminum plate during printing. Gum Arabic is also said to be one of the major ingredients in the making of most soft drinks we consume.

In herbal medicine, the gum is used to bind pills and lozenges and to stabilize emulsions. It is also used to produce a medium for applying essential oils, balsams, resins, etc

An increasing number of diary products such as yoghurt drinks, flavoured milk, custards, cream, ice cream and puddings contain the plant.

ALSO READ: Cocoa: Abundance availability in Nigeria

Availability / Producing States

It is available during the season in Borno and Adamawa states. Other sources in the West African sub-region are Sudan and Chad.

Export Price

Price is quoted in terminal markets in Asia, China and India. However, activities in the trade are dictated by that in Asian markets. It is sold in foreign currency: pound sterling and dollars.

Marketability

Gum Arabic has three grades: I, II, III. However, Gum Arabic of Nigerian origin is not easily marketable because of quality issues. It is, usually, poorly harvested and processed as merchants are in the habit of adulterating and mixing up the grades. Consequently, gum arabic of Nigerian origin is a ‘no grade’ in the international market. Gum Arabic from Sudan and Chad are of superior grades as they are better processed and graded.

Trade Volume

The trade volume is not much to engage many traders. Foreign buyers are mainly from Asian countries: China, Taiwan and Japan

Reference Markets

Reference local markets are Maiduguri, Yola; and Chad and Sudan in the West African Sub-region. International reference markets are China and Japan.

Business Variables

International price, local price, exchange rate, seasonality and weather conditions constitutes business variable for which traders have no control over their market value. These variables fluctuate from time to time and can either be in favor of or against the trader

Trade Contract

 They are established trade contracts which usually stipulate the There price, payment terms, transportation, shipment, time and quality, other packing, conditions that must be acceptable to the exported and importer.

Quality requirements are stringent and trade is highly volatile and risky due to quality issues. Purity levels are of utmost concern to buyers. Poor quality attracts discount while good quality attracts premium price

Profitability

Trade is profitable. Profitability is, however, dependent on quality of goods, market forces (supply and supply), prudent management of trade overheads and movement of business variables.

Gum Arabic

Export Potentials

It is a good source of foreign exchange for the country if there are concerted efforts on the part of government, farmers and merchants to stimulate production of good quality as in Sudan.

Nigeria is blessed with arable desert land conducive to the growth of the commodity. With the government’s on-going efforts to stimulate production of all exportable agricultural commodities, it is hoped that

Mode of Export

Trade in commodity is largely formal; through the Nigerian Sea Ports as per contract requirements. However, unscrupulous merchants are in the habit of smuggling the commodity across boarders of neighboring countries. This reason accounts for the high rate of adulteration and quality issues prevalent in the trade.

Trade Associations

For information on government approved National Trade Association, contact Federal Ministry of Commerce, Abuja.

Business Risks

The major risk in the business is high rate of adulteration. Grades I, II and III are mixed together with sand, dirt, stones etc.

Fluctuation in local and international price; exchange rate and non payment due largely to quality problems constitute other major risks

Like all major export commodities, trade dupes and tricksters abound at the farm gates. It is, therefore, advisable to deal with well-known merchants with good reputation and track records.

Seasonality/Trade Cycle

The seasonal cycle is (6) six months: September to February.

Commercial tapping is normally done once a year, starting in September and harvesting begins four weeks later.

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